Words by MC Galang and Ian Urrutia
Illustration by MC Galang
New Music We Love is back after a one-week break! While we’re briefly away, we released a primer on ASEAN Music Showcase Festival 2020, our first joint online music showcase festival with friends and colleagues from Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore, which will live stream on September 19 and 20; a feature on the upcoming virtual edition of Fukuoka Asian Picks 2020 this weekend (which will feature a performance from Pikoy), which we are the official Philippine media partner; our review of the newly released Annalogue album, and our rumination on the blossoming (or exploding?) alternative pop movement in the country.
Meanwhile, here are our favorite new tracks from Asia.
‘Hexagon’ – CIFIKA (KR)
My God. South Korean producer and singer-songwriter CIFIKA just released one of the best records of 2020 with her stunning debut, HANA: a 10-track effort that contextualizes the energy radiated by love centered around “the great, yet dangerous Sun,” through a relentlessly passionate pursuit to find “how her Sun sounds like.”
On one of its pre-release singles, “Hexagon,” CIFIKA meditates on the allure of danger, the ease to which people plunge into their own destruction in exchange of love so powerful it burns. Her voice, hypnotic and almost otherworldly like a honeycomb that attracts bees, draws you into a never-ending cycle of pain and pleasure—there’s no choosing one or the other.
‘jiki’ – chelmico (JP)
Chelmico have been keeping busy since their debut in 2014. With a steadily consistent stream of singles, mini-albums, and LPs, the duo are seemingly not running out of ideas. Their newest album, MAZE, explores beyond rap and hip-hop variations while being packaged as pop chameleons: they are visually striking as they are sonically electrifying—one reason why they’re de facto mainstays in our New Music We Love series.
The two successive tracks in the first half, “jiki” and “Douyara Watashiwa,” best demonstrate the fantastic contrast and spontaneity that Rachel Watashiga and Mamiko Suzuki have perfected over the years. The former is a minimalist pop number (maracas, keys, bass, and synths) that highlights its crisp, sprightly parts as much as its whole structure, as it rolls onto its considerably textured rap-soul-funk follow-up. These tasteful choices always make for a delightful listening experience; their spectrum of style never conventional, never dull.
‘ADJACENT POSSIBLE’ – AHJU$$I (PH)
I can’t stop thinking about the looped keys in Manila-based producer and Bangkok Music City 2019 alum AHJU$$I’s “ADJACENT POSSIBLE,” the way it opens the fantastic penultimate track to his HYPERPOP-released and shouty-titled TRUTH HAS AN EXPIRATION DATE EP and anchors it firmly until the end while the rest of the track torpedoes around it in rapid tempo: a clash of juke, footwork, and a whirlpool of warbled recordings patched cohesively together with its parts somehow distinctly vivid and yet still absorbing. There’s no random or twisted quality in its beauty, just beauty in the way it gets you transfixed. What a trip.
‘generativeChange(Null:Void)VillainCode:666’ – similarobjects (PH)
Surprisingly, the refractory energy and rage in similarobjects’s breathlessly indescribable “generativeChange(Null:Void)VillainCode:666” is not its most disarming quality, but the manner in which he designs it, sculpts it: a sinister landscape where the light rarely breaks through, bathed in perpetual shadows, and littered with a flotsam of earthly pleasures left in its wake.
His contribution to the Command+V2 split release by Tehran-based record label Kopi (alongside fellow producer THNGMJX from São Paulo) accentuates the complexities of human fallibility by juxtaposing it through the context of technology and the immutability of change, whatever form it manifests in.
‘Omw’ – ((( O ))) (PH)
There’s something about the way “Omw”—a jazzy R&B standout from (((O)))’s second full-length release from The Sundrop Garden series—that mixes anticipation with exhilaration, its brisk tempo coloring the distance between the departure and point of arrival. It’s a trivial phrase, “I’m on my way,” sent almost always in haste, but the song predicates the age-old saying that the journey is indeed what matters.
The Artist Formerly Known as June Marieezy’s honeyed voice brims with affection, as if she’s speaking directly to her beloved (the track features production and vocals from her long-time collaborator and husband, French multi-instrumentalist FKJ), the song serving as a guarantee more than just a promise sworn by both.
‘Fall In Love!’ – Ena Mori (PH)
Sonically, Ena Mori’s latest bop,“Fall In Love!,” sounds like incandescent glow in music form: free-spirited, relentlessly joyous, but never resistant to adventure. Thanks to Ena’s collaborator and producer Timothy Run, the song steps out of the funk to cover several sonic styles and timelines in pop music seamlessly, while pushing beyond expectations and tropes. The result becomes something much greater than their individual strengths, an inescapable earworm that feels rewarding in every repeated listen.
‘A Song For You #或是一首歌’ – Hebe Tien (TW)
Taiwanese singer Hebe Tien teams up with alt collective deca joins on “A Song For You”—a hauntingly delicate ballad that documents the process of “self-healing through life and time.” Hovering in the border between Mandopop and Hope Sandoval’s brand of honky-tonk dream pop, the unlikely collaboration surprisingly yields satisfying results. Hebe Tien’s hushed delivery makes a virtue out of restraint and simplicity, while deca joins’s irresistible arrangement makes for the icing in the cake.
‘My Type’ – brb. (SG)
Singapore’s brb. blends soulful, synthetic R&B with a slice of summer on “My Type”—their independently released new single. The song brims with captivating confidence that somehow feels unusual for a newly minted group fresh into their career. With the many shades of romantic earnestness and sensuality brushing into the mold, it’s exciting to hear the trio deliver another well-produced jam that sticks for days and weeks. On “My Type,” brb. uses all the right resources and strengths at their disposal, bringing to life a subdued but electric vocal performance on top of a smooth, effortless production.
‘June July August’ – Shuntaro Okino (JP)
Suffused with sweetly melodic but swirling guitars, velvety harmonies, and reverb-laden soundscapes, Shuntaro Okino‘s “June July August” is the essential track that you need if you want your shoegaze and dream-pop slathered with sugary motif. It emits sublime beauty that washes over you, grounding its ethereal sonic approach with organic warmth.